tennessee smokiesThe Daytona Cubs released a “tentative” roster, the Kane County Cougars released a “preliminary” roster, and now the Tennessee Smokies have released their “initial” Opening Day roster for 2014. The Smokies open on Thursday.

First, the roster, then the comments:


Corey Black, RHP
Lendy Castillo, RHP
Hunter Cervenka, LHP
C.J. Edwards, RHP
P.J. Francescon, RHP
Matt Loosen, RHP
Jeffrey Lorick, LHP
Ivan Pineyro, RHP
Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
Armando Rivero, RHP
Ryan Searle, RHP
Tony Zych, RHP


Charles Cutler
Rafael Lopez


Stephen Bruno
Kris Bryant
Wes Darvill
Dustin Geiger
Jonathan Mota
Jeudy Valdez


John Andreoli
Zeke DeVoss
Rubi Silva
Jorge Soler

You’re probably immediately noticing a huge absence: Pierce Johnson. No worries, AA is where the Cubs’ second best pitching prospect will start the year, but he’s been slowed by a minor hamstring issue in Spring Training. He was expected to miss a start or two, so he’ll hang back in Mesa for a little while before being assigned to Tennessee. As of today, there are no concerns whatsoever.

Otherwise, that Daytona rotation makes its way up to Tennessee, including C.J. Edwards, Corey Black, Ivan Pineyro and Matt Loosen. Ben Wells, like Johnson, is missing, which I’m guessing is also temporary, since he was not on Daytona’s roster, either.

There are several interesting relievers on the roster, headlined by Armando Rivero. Tony Zych, Lendy Castillo, Hunter Cervenka, and Ryan Searle are all intriguing.

In the outfield, we see the effects of the crunch at AAA Iowa. Soler was expected, and DeVoss sounds about right. Andreoli and Silva probably did enough last year to warrant promotions to Iowa, however. But, with guys like Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Matt Szczur, and Chris Coghlan all grabbing regular starts up there, it was going to be hard to sort out the playing time. Silva could stand to add a little discipline to his game, and Andreoli is more of a fourth outfielder type (albeit potentially a good one), so leaving them at AA makes sense.

In the infield, obviously the big name is Kris Bryant, and starting at AA was expected. Stephen Bruno might be the most interesting name after missing most of 2013 (Tommy John surgery), but hitting the lights out of the ball in his limited professional experience so far. Dustin Geiger continues his unheralded climb, and he’ll be the regular first baseman for the Smokies this year.

Behind the plate, I’m a little surprised that Rafael Lopez wasn’t promoted to Iowa, but perhaps he’s still got work to do behind the plate. Charles Cutler was a minor league Rule 5 pick by the Cubs this year.

  • ssckelley

    Yeah Lopez is the surprise for me as well, I thought for sure he would be at Iowa.

    But another very good looking minor league team. I see a nice balance of power with speed in the offense and some intriguing arms worth keeping an eye on.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    If the Cubs see Lopez as a minor league vet type, they may want him in Tennessee to work with that pitching staff. He’s pretty good behind the plate already.

    Keep an eye on Bruno as well. He torched the FSL in his injury shortened season, and then got bumped up to Tennessee with that minimal experience.

    And that pitching staff is just loaded. This is going to be a very fun team to watch.

  • boomindanny

    i probably should have posted this on the cougar’s thread, but where is dillon maples? if he is in boise again, colour me unimpressed.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Slowed by an injury, I think. I’m not sure beyond that.

      Returning to Boise would surprise me, though.

    • Jon

      Don’t stick it in him, but maybe have it handy, Maples is just about done, IMO.

      • ssckelley

        It very well could be a make or break year for him. He will be 22 this May and if he cannot show that he can get low A hitters out then stick a fork in him. I hope it is simply precautionary injuries that is keeping him off the KC roster and not because he was ineffective this spring.

    • Spriggs

      Maples is still in Mesa – and he has not been involved in any of the games or practices I have seen (all levels of the minors). I am not sure what the injury is, but he is never in full uniform when I see him. Usually hanging around with McNeil who is rehabbing from Tommy John last year.

  • CubFan Paul

    Big year for DeVoss. His hit tool will be tested for sure at this level (or exposed).

  • Spriggs

    Also, Soler – who CRUSHED a home run yesterday in an intrasquad game – is still in Mesa, so I guess he will start the year on the DL.

  • Funn Dave

    Question about the headline: what makes this team more prospect-laden than any of the others? Does that just mean that it has the most players who have a feasible chance to play in the majors at some point? If so, is that subjective, or is there a list somewhere of who does or does not qualify as a prospect?

    • Spriggs

      Without trying to analyze it too much, I would just say you have 3 guys (Bryant, Edwards, and Soler) who are not only in the Cubs top 5, but in or near the top 50 in all of baseball.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      At the fringe, who and who does not qualify as a prospect is very subjective. There is no purely empirical model that can predict with absolute certainty who will and will not reach the majors.

      And for that matter, there are those who will consider as failed prospects some players who do reach the majors and have productive careers there simply because they did not reach expectations.

      In this case, though, I think what Brett is point out is that, on average, the prospects who are starting the year in Tennessee grade higher than the prospects the year elsewhere.

      I just scanned through the list and counted 12 guys that I remember being on the Top 40 (coming soon), and five or six more who were among the last few cut from consideration. No matter how you slice, that’s a loaded team.

      • Funn Dave

        Thanks, Luke. I see what you mean. It definitely has the most players with (relatively) big name recognition, which is about as far as my expertise goes.

      • ssckelley

        In a good farm system AA is where you find some of the organizations best prospects. We should see a good percentage of this roster in the majors at some point.

        • King Jeff

          AA is also where we usually find out what they are really made of. Besides the infielders and Hendricks at Iowa, this is where most of the prospects that I’m excited about are going to be playing this year.